St John’s science fair draws huge crowds – and challenges minds of young and old

Written by Tony Millett on .

Mark, Emma and Mum marvel at the effect of Dry Ice at the St John's Academy Science FairMark, Emma and Mum marvel at the effect of Dry Ice at the St John's Academy Science FairIt was raining, it was cold, parked cars stretched back to the main road, and the crowds thronged into St John’s Academy for the fourth annual Science Fair.  Run as part of National Science and Engineering Week, the Fair is designed for families with plenty of hands-on activities for the young – in fact for all the family.

In the atrium you could test your powers of estimation with paper-clips, create intricate structures out of spaghetti and make oboes from milk-shake straws.  Or you could build your own Stonehenge and wonder at the model of Crofton’s famous pumping station.

There was a splendid and very much working Victorian ‘harmonograph’ drawing extraordinarily satisfying spiral designs as its pendulums interacted.

Dr Mark with some of his enthuriastic audienceDr Mark with some of his enthuriastic audienceThe first show of the day completely filled the Theatre on the Hill for Dr Mark Biddiss’ Cool Science and Maths Show.  He used to be a space scientist working at London University on NASA projects – now he can fly a miniature rocket across the front of the stage using just water and a foot pump.

His audience – which stretched from infant school age to grandparent age – was fascinated  different sized balloons that danced over a hair dryer, coloured balloons that did or didn’t burst when caught in the light from an overhead projector, a pen-cap submarine that moved effortlessly up and down inside a bottle of water…and much else besides including some tricky maths.

He showed us the maths problem which added up to ‘a grey elephant from Denmark’ – and those who got that one wrong were just ‘statistical outliers’…remember that when you next get an exam answer wrong.

He also produced the maths formula that always ends up at seven: choose any number between one and nine: add four, multiply by two, add six, divide by two and finally subtract the number you first thought of.  Magic.  

At the end of the show, several very young members of the audience insisted on shaking Dr Mark’s hand – just in case he had something hidden up his sleeve?   Goodness knows what his afternoon audience were going to be treated to at his Tricks of the Mind session.

Back in the atrium St John’s Eco Racing team were selling small rabbits made by the school’s very own 3-D printer.  The bare bones (is that a technical term?) of their new chassis were on show with its tiny engine and washers made to the students’ design by the 3-D printer.

They were very grateful for a £200 grant from the Rotary Club to help with materials.

They hope to get their new car to do 500 miles to the gallon – an amazing target whatever the Chancellor fishes out of his budget box next Wednesday.  They will be taking part in the national trials at Malory Park trials on June 18 and are sure the new car will be ready by June 17.  

Good luck to them…and very good luck to all the youngsters who found the science activities and the maths so enthralling.

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